Mises on the Anti-Capitalist Bias

From Planned Chaos, which itself is an excerpt of Mises’s Socialism treatise.

Nothing is more unpopular today than the free market economy, i.e., capitalism. Everything that is considered unsatisfactory in present-day conditions is charged to capitalism.

The atheists make capitalism responsible for the survival of Christianity. But the papal encyclicals blame capitalism for the spread of irreligion and the sins of our contemporaries, and the Protestant churches and sects are no less vigorous in their indictment of capitalist greed. Friends of peace consider our wars as an offshoot of capitalist imperialism. But the adamant nationalist warmongers of Germany and Italy indicted capitalism for its “bourgeois” pacifism, contrary to human nature and to the inescapable laws of history. Sermonizers accuse capitalism of disrupting the family and fostering licentiousness. But the “progressives” blame capitalism for the preservation of allegedly outdated rules of sexual restraint.

Almost all men agree that poverty is an outcome of capitalism. On the other hand many deplore the fact that capitalism, in catering lavishly to the wishes of people intent upon getting more amenities and a better living, promotes a crass materialism. These contradictory accusations of capitalism cancel one another. But the fact remains that there are few people left who would not condemn capitalism altogether.

The characteristic mark of this age of dictators, wars and revolutions is its anti-capitalistic bias. Most governments and political parties are eager to restrict the sphere of private initiative and free enterprise. It is an almost unchallenged dogma that capitalism is done for and that the coming of all-round regimentation of economic activities is both inescapable and highly desirable.

None the less capitalism is still very vigorous in the Western Hemisphere. Capitalist production has made very remarkable progress even in these last years. Methods of production were greatly improved. Consumers have been supplied with better and cheaper goods and with many new articles unheard of a short time ago. Many countries have expanded the size and improved the quality of their manufacturing. In spite of the anti-capitalistic policies of all governments and of almost all political parties, the capitalist mode of production is in many countries still fulfilling its social function in supplying the consumers with more, better and cheaper goods.

It is certainly not a merit of governments, politicians and labour union officers that the standard of living is improving in the countries committed to the principle of private ownership of the means of production. Not offices and bureaucrats, but big business deserves credit for the fact that most of the families in the United States own a motor car and a radio set. The increase in per capita consumption in America as compared with conditions a quarter of a century ago is not an achievement of laws and executive orders. It is an accomplishment of business men who enlarged the size of their factories or built new ones.

One must stress this point because our contemporaries are inclined to ignore it. Entangled in the superstitions of statism and government omnipotence, they are exclusively preoccupied with governmental measures. They expect everything from authoritarian action and very little from the initiative of enterprising citizens. Yet, the only means to increase well-being is to increase the quantity of products. This is what business aims at.

The dogma that the State or the Government is the embodiment of all that is good and beneficial and that the individuals are wretched underlings, exclusively intent upon inflicting harm upon one another and badly in need of a guardian, is almost unchallenged. It is taboo to question it in the slightest way. He who proclaims the godliness of the State and the infallibility of its priests, the bureaucrats, is considered as an impartial student of the social sciences. All those raising objections are branded as biased and narrow-minded. The supporters of the new religion of statolatry are no less fanatical and intolerant than were the Mohammedan conquerors of Africa and Spain.

History will call our age the age of the dictators and tyrants. We have witnessed in the last years the fall of two of these inflated supermen. But the spirit which raised these knaves to autocratic power survives. It permeates textbooks and periodicals, it speaks through the mouths of teachers and politicians, it manifests itself in party programmes and in plays and novels. As long as this spirit prevails there cannot be any hope of durable peace,… of the preservation of freedom or of a steady improvement in the nation’s economic well-being.


Taking Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Seriously

Jesse Kelly at The Federalist wrote an article called “Why the Right Should Start Taking Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Seriously.” He initiates the article with reference to the “mind-numbingly stupid” tweet Ocasio-Cortez put out this week. She’s had plenty of educated responses so I don’t need to do that.

However, I did Tweet out the following:

It’s easy to focus on the dumbness of these politicians, but it’s also important to remember that perhaps the most educated President in American history, Woodrow Wilson, was arguably the worst. While Wilson was not a Marxist, he was a left-interventionist, the point here is that even the most brilliant of people cannot make socialism— or statism in general— into a workable framework for managing society.

But at the Federalist, Kelly makes a very important observation: namely, that Ocasio-Cortez seems to be the future— she’s “relatable,” she’s hip, she’s fun and comfortable with social media, and so on. This is very dangerous because she can use this to accumulate popular following and push forward the very agendas that are destructive both to liberty, and also therefore to prosperity.

And now is the age of social media. This is the age where a tidal wave of support can and does come from anywhere. Social media allows candidates for office to let the public see them with their blemishes. With a push of a button, you can watch Ocasio-Cortez make instant mac and cheese like a college freshman. She’s pretty. She’s young enough to understand and take advantage of this current political world. Most importantly, her naiveté about the things of government make her more appealing to the common man, not less.

So go ahead laugh at Ocasio-Cortez. That’s fine. Sit in your Foggy Bottom townhouse and mock the dullard from the Bronx as she eats the food of the unwashed masses. Squeal with delight every time she fails basic civics. After all, this freshman congresswoman, her peasant food, and her Boston University degree wouldn’t even be allowed in the front door of your tennis club.

But know this; the people who decide the next election like easy mac and cheese, and they’ll never step foot in a tennis club.

In other words, much to the frustration of my own personality, tightly reasoned essays and actual, demonstrable proofs of the ethics and economics of capitalism, do not make movements in the short run. The movement Ocasio-Cortez leads cannot be overcome simply by intellectual refutation; again, in the short run. I do believe that ideas are the long run solution.

I used to place much more emphasis on educating future voters/citizens than current voting efforts— and I still think voting itself is a lousy strategy. But the immediate way out, I realize increasingly, is decentralization of both mind and body. The future mob led by the popular appeal of hip politicians like Ocasio-Cortez are led by their whims and passions, not by reason.

And as Scott Adams says, those who did not reason themselves into a position cannot be reasoned out of their position. The future of Washington will continue to spiral toward TV-show level non-intelligence and cheap entertainment. To battle this, we must nullify and secede.


Standing up to Obama?

I was reading Jacobin Mag this morning and came upon this paragraph about Obama and was wondering if Rachel Held Evans, Russell Moore, or Thabiti Anyabwile have mentioned any of these things.

Obama’s America still separated immigrant families, locked up kids in cages, and used tear gas on migrants; it still coddled and cozied up to blood-soaked tyrants; it still incinerated wedding parties and hospitals; it still brutalized environmental protesters and forced people to beg for money to cover their medical bills; it still let Wall Street write economic policy and stood by as black wealth was eviscerated in a cavalcade of fraud and other criminality.

Imagine if this paragraph were written about Trump. They’d be all over it.


The Socialists Have the Upper Hand

As recently stated, I’ve upped my reading of Jacobin Magazine. I’m at a point in my self-educational journey where I am more selective about what I read from amongst the broader Austrian and libertarian outlets– I read most of Mises.org, LRC, FEE once in a while, George Reisman every time he has a new essay… and then whenever I see a headline that catches my eye.

But I want to also expand my horizons a bit, keep an eye on the various enemies so to speak. Jacobin Magazine is top notch representative of the far socialist left. The quality of the content is world class, it is stimulating intellectually, and there is a great sense of self-awareness. They do a good job, despite their being 100% the exact opposite, reciprocal of the Christian Austro-Libertarian in so many ways.

In any case, the point of this post is that the more of that magazine I read, the more I realize that they have so much going for them– we live in a world of economic interventionism, wherein the state suspends, in so many places, the right of the private property owner to make decisions over the use of his property. In this way, we live in a profoundly non-capitalist world. And yet, all this is done under the banner and label of capitalism. This makes sense. The 20th century western world would never have accepted state control under the banner of socialism. Instead, they accept state control under the banner of capitalism.

Since everyone thinks we have capitalism, and since the state operates on an interventionist model (not a traditional socialist one), the socialist has an easy time of pointing out the failures of interventionism, but blaming capitalism. And since no one has ever heard of interventionism, socialism is swiftly becoming a legitimate alternative in the minds of so many.

In other words, the state has monopolized, on behalf of the banking industry, the money, banking, and credit industry– everyone calls it capitalism and when it inevitably causes ruin (as true capitalistic free marketers warned), we all point the finger at the label we’ve been taught describes us: capitalism.

Thus, Jacobin so often expresses educated outrage at the excesses of capitalism, which reached its peak in 2008 as the lives of an entire generation of retirees and near-retirees were ruined. Is this really humane, they ask? Is capitalism really all its cracked up to be?

Unfortunately for us, this narrative is much easier to sell than the more nuanced explanations required of the laissez-fairist private property proponents. Central banking, we can point out until we are blue in the face, is a product of a mighty and capitalism-denying state! Capitalism is the antidote, not the way things are!

But who is listening? The answer is becoming more obvious: few at the national level, but far more at the local level. Thus, as I have echoed time and again, nullification, dissent, secession, and decentralization (which occur first in the mind and then in society) constitute the way out of this mess. I don’t think we will be able to defeat the socialists in Washington– we are both fighting interventionists who use capitalistic language and phraseology.


Best Takes on Bush’s Death

Bush was not a model President, but he may at one point have been a presidential model.

The internet will fill our weekend timelines with praises and eulogies for Bush Sr. So this post will be updated over the week with what I consider to be more sane and rational reflections on the legacy of Bush, who was an establishment man to the core– dangerous to the freedoms of the American people and, due to the US’ empire status, to the freedoms of the world. Check back in as I add more to the list.

Updated as of 7:30pm Eastern


Bush 1: Last of the Yankees

George H.W. Bush has died. Provides an opportunity to mention a few things regarding Bush in regards to the power politics dynamic that exists in Washington– a topic Murray Rothbard was brilliant on. This is a quick sweep through, not very developed in a formal sense, just a summary of how I understand these things.

The two leading groups of politically well connected and unimaginably wealthy “families,” by the turn of the century were the Morgans and the Rockefellers– this is what we now call “Old Money” in America. These two groups were fiercely competitive with each other, especially in the banking and finance world. In fact, many of the early 20th century political battles can be seen as reflective of the great wars between these two economic powerhouses. 

It was the signing of the Federal Reserve Act which caused the “House of Morgan” and the Rockefeller empire to no longer be required to compete in the world of banking. It was a union between the two most powerful and political influential economic groups in banking and credit.

While united on the banking front due to the Federal Reserve’s establishment in 1913, they still competed for dominance in other industries, including oil and manufacturing. But World War II solved this problem. It was the seal that tied them closely together. FDR and his decision to enter into the WWII was their connecting point. Rothbard explains helpfully:

During the 1930s, the Rockefellers pushed hard for war against Japan, which they saw as competing with them vigorously for oil and rubber resources in Southeast Asia and as endangering the Rockefellers’ cherished dreams of a mass “China market” for petroleum products. On the other hand, the Rockefellers took a non-interventionist position in Europe, where they had close financial ties with German firms such as I. G. Farben and Co., and very few close relations with Britain and France. The Morgans, in contrast, as usual deeply committed to their financial ties with Britain and France, once again plumped early for war with Germany, while their interest in the Far East had become minimal. Indeed, U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Joseph C. Grew, former Morgan partner, was one of the few officials in the Roosevelt administration genuinely interested in peace with Japan.

World War II might therefore be considered, from one point of view, as a coalition war: the Morgans got their war in Europe, the Rockefellers theirs in Asia. Such disgruntled Morgan men as Lewis W. Douglas and Dean G. Acheson (a protégé of Henry Stimson), who had left the early Roosevelt administration in disgust at its soft money policies and economic nationalism, came happily roaring back into government service with the advent of World War II. Nelson A. Rockefeller, for his part, became head of Latin American activities during World War II, and thereby acquired his taste for government service.

After World War II, the united Rockefeller-Morgan-Kuhn, Loeb Eastern Establishment was not allowed to enjoy its financial and political supremacy unchallenged for long. “Cowboy” Sun Belt firms, maverick oil men and construction men from Texas, Florida, and southern California, began to challenge the Eastern Establishment “Yankees” for political power. While both groups favor the Cold War, the Cowboys are more nationalistic, more hawkish, and less inclined to worry about what our European allies are thinking. They are also much less inclined to bail out the now Rockefeller-controlled Chase Manhattan Bank and other Wall Street banks that loaned recklessly to Third World and Communist countries and expect the U.S. taxpayer—through outright taxes or the printing of U.S. dollars—to pick up the tab.

Rothbard, Murray N. Wall Street, Banks, and American Foreign Policy (LvMI) (Kindle Locations 827-843).

The Eastern Establishment after this was suddenly in deep competition from the Sunbelt “conservatives,” who had CIA, construction, and American oil (as opposed to the Eastern Establishment, whose oil interested were in the middle east) connections and domination. Remember, both the Republican and Democratic establishment before the rise of the Sunbelt Cowboys were all Eastern establishmentarians, who might also be called the “Yankees” in the “Yankee and Cowboy War,” a book written by Carl Oglesby back in the 1970’s. It is Oglesby who first really articulated this paradigm between the Eastern Powers and the new Sunbelt (CA and TX) powers. And even as the Sunbelt Cowboys came roaring into power, their influence too stretched across both parties; LBJ was a Democrat and Nixon was a Republican.

After Gerald Ford, a Yankee Eastern Establishment type, came to power after the Establishment got Nixon, he was a breath of fresh air to Yankees, but unfortunately for them, the populace was growing annoyed as establishment “Rockefeller Republican” centrism. And so the popular movement arose which was a quasi revolt against Eastern Establishment and Reagan was voted in under the assumption that he would make good on his promise to clear house of the Trilateral Commission— which was basically the 80s version of the “draining the swamp” populist appeal.

Unfortunately, Reagan didn’t do very well in clearing out the Establishment. This part is important. The reason that Reagan only partially succeeded was his VP George H.W. Bush, whose family history and “Old Money” connections reach back to his father who was a key member of the banking world (Yankee) and yet who had done well in reaching out to the Texas oil world and thus making friends in the Cowboy empire as well. On top of this, Bush was a long time CIA man and even its director. Bush Sr.’s influence in the Reagan administration cannot be overstated. People like to think of George Bush Jr. as a Texas neocon. But it is more accurate to see him originally as an Old Money yankee, who made a fortune making friends in the Sunbelt industries, and was heavily influence by his neoconservative advisors, who ran his foreign policy because he was quite weak in that area (much to his father’s disappointment).

In other words, Reagan’s mistake is that he cleared out some of the Establishment, but left a considerable block of them, led by Bush I himself. But into the vacuum he created, the neocons crawled their way in and thus created the dynamic that would last until Trump: the neocon (which had subsumed the cowboy faction) vs. Establishment Yankee battle. Reagan, while perhaps meaning well in his war on the Yankees, also opened the neocon can of worms. While they wouldn’t find true and world-changing power until Bush II and 9/11, the neocons largely grabbed their footing, found their positions during the Reagan years– and they worked quietly under Clinton and made their splash under Bush II.

Bush I’s disappointment in his son’s foreign policy lies in the fact that Jr’s foreign policy was run by neocon Wilsonians– global crusaders on behalf of democracy. This should be compared to the Yankee’s preference for a so-called “Realist” foreign policy wherein the world is a chess board that should carefully considered. A realist foreign policy was what Bush 2 ran his campaign on, which makes sense, since his familial background belongs to the realist tradition. 9/11 was the death blow to realism. The neocons fully and unfortunately took everything over from there. And the GOP has since then been very neocon.

Bush I was not a neocon. He was a tried and true man of the 20th century centrist Establishment. He predates the neocons. He was one of the last remaining true blood yankees. Of course, not being a neocon does not itself win you points– we are talking power politics here, the internal battles for control over resources and power within the state. The Eastern Establishment set the stage for 20th century policy, foreign and domestic, just as the Neocons largely set the stage for the first quarter of the 21st century policy.

For more on Bush I’s world and connections, I recommend Rothbard’s monograph Wall Street, Banks, and American Foreign Policy.


Food is Not a Right

It is precisely because over the last 300 years food has not been treated as a right (which would obligate the government to provide it or force some to give food to others), that we don’t need to speak of it in terms of rights. The market has done more to feed the western world and bring people out of hunger than any other institution in history. In fact now we are concerned with obesity problems!

The majority of people swoon when they hear someone deny that food is a right, but they do not realize that it does not need to be a right in order for it to be produced in historically unprecedented quantities such that the global population can be sustained at levels unimaginable several centuries ago.


Profit, Loss, and Proportionality of Reward

The nature of the market system, and more specifically the profit and loss system, is such that it rewards those who contribute in a positive way, and penalizes those who do not contribute positively.

Entrepreneurs act in the immediate term, in hopes of profiting in the medium or longer term. The future is uncertain. There is no guarantee of a profit.

The entrepreneur either makes a profit, or experiences a loss. If he makes a profit, it is a sign that he has benefitted those who bought his product or service. He is rewarded for employing scarce resources wisely.

If he experiences a loss, it is a sign that he has wasted resources, employed them in a way that did not benefit the individuals in society. He is penalized for wasting resources.

The greater the benefit provided, the greater the profit— and a sign to other entrepreneurs that there is great need in this area.

While the leftists, socialists, politicians, economically ignorant commentators lambaste the profit maker, he is the employer of resources that deserves praise; for he is the very decision maker benefitting the world around him! They ought to express frustration at those experiencing losses— for they are unwisely employing resources. But thankfully, they are given just penalty to the very extent of their monetary loss.

The price system has just rewards and penalties built in— no politicians necessary.


Dissent from the Social Themes!

I recently wrote on Jeff Deist’s talk at PFS, regarding the Zeitgeist Libertarians. The more I think about it, the more I realize the importance to emphasizing his core point: mainstream libertarians disagree with statist means, but they are distinct from us paleo-libertarians in that they embrace the Dominant Social Themes; that is, they often speak of social goals in terms of the same leftist ends as the run of the mill establishment liberal.

But libertarianism doesn’t imply that we have to assent to the leftist themes— and its amazing that even so-called Republicans are often so leftist in their thinking. Left-libertarians often say that the democrats are agreeable in their social liberalism and republicans are despicable in their social conservatism; therefore, we should take the social liberalism of the democrats and combine it with the economic conservatism of the Republicans.

But actually, Republicans are almost nearly just as bad on Dominant Social Themes, especially relating to the meta-view of recent social progress.

Contra popular opinion:

    Diversity is not per se our strength (but neither is racial uniformity for its own sake)
    Voting is neither a right nor is it a boon for liberty
    Democracy is the enemy of justice, social harmony, and human progress
    Immigration is not inherently good, and is in fact often a tool by those who anticipate that immigrants will benefit their political aspirations.
    All cultures are not equal in their morality or contribution to civilization’s advancement
    The social classes do not owe one another as a matter of justice
    Europeans were the great benefactors of western civilization in their emphasis on private property-based justice, increasingly low time-preferences, praise of capital investment, individual and family oriented social arrangements where dissent was allowed and fostered over against the mob. This does not mean Europeans are better; it means that all individuals should appreciate their contribution to society instead of working against them, as a racial class, in order to promote more barbarous cultures.
    Reality, truth are objective and can be known, argued for, and used to judge emotional thinking.
    Our struggle is not against “rugged individualism,” but against collectivism and group-think
    We don’t need to get money out of politics, we need to get government out of business. Poor candidates that have no corporate backing are not necessarily better even though we live in the unjust and economically detrimental system of corporatism (or crony capitalism)– in fact, often poor candidates merely push for a different kind of socialism: a socialism based on conflict against the rich and strife against the capitalists (without whom we’d all live in poverty).
    A nation is strong to the extent that it is made up of voluntarily individuals and families, with strong cultural ties, a common language, common interests, and common values— all of these indicate that a breakup of the Union is important and vital for social peace and the alleviation of current social tensions, almost all of which are caused by the state’s political grasp over our lives. Indeed, unity in spite of all our vast differences, interests, cultures, preferences, lifestyles, and so forth indicate that such unity is utopian and will be necessarily authoritarian.
    An increasing number of women and minority legislators is not per se progress because progress is defined by the ideas assented to and promoted, not the group identity from which a person comes. The sex and race of the leadership is meaningless compared to the ideas held.
    Forcing diversity on a people group ends in misery, despair, and conflict. Democracy is the enemy of progress and civilization and mandated diversity fuels the flames of destruction.

McCarthy: The Anti-Western Faith

In the fall 2018 publication of Modern Age, the great Dan McCarthy’s Editor’s note offered a reflection on the transition from Christianity to what he calls “secular universalism” as the dominant faith subconsciously adopted by society.

He argues that the magnificent shift away from western Christianity (in a broad, vague sense), is not a shift away from faith— its just that the object, so to speak, of the faith has been swapped out. This has consequences, and McCarthy, a true traditionalist conservative who writes like one, mentions a few of them. Due to the perversion of faith,

the spiritual is turned into the temporal, and salvation turns into a worldly concept….. [This] creates longings in political and social life that cannot be fulfilled. This degrades our worldly practices as well as the human spirit, as the means of politics and economics are misapplied toward ends they can never achieve.

Then he applies this to the vastly popular and trending “social justice” theme:

“Social justice,” with its complex mythology of victims and oppressors— saints and sinners— is a cutting-edge development of this secular universalism. It takes from Christianity a certain feeling for guilt and expiation, but atonement is not to be made to God…. Instead, political and other public rituals can purify: denouncing nonbelievers and heretics on social media, for example, or silencing the voice of error by enforcing the right “community standards,” as devised by corporations eager to demonstrate their acceptance of political morality.

What is remarkable is not that there is today some private policing of speech— and, by implication, thought— but the unforgiving and uncharitable political nature of the orthodoxy. The new faith does not respect conscience. How can it if moral truth is found only in one’s conformity to the correct attitudes held by others, and not in one’s relationship to anything beyond humanity?

I would like to simply copy the rest of the article into this space, but this was meant as a short reference to the editor’s note. In any event, I think it adequately summarizes the difficulties built in to modern social life, and all the social engineering trends that have been applied to the New Secular Faith. In all this, McCarthy is likely echoing the work of Paul Gottfried’s work on Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt. Gottfried takes a very detailed look at the religious roots of the paradigms and language of modern secularist faith— especially as they relate to the social justice phenomenon where there are classes to victims and oppressors and where the jobs, among others, of the state is to help remedy this sinful situation.

What I am interested in especially is watching all this develop not only in the general secular institutions (the media, higher education, corporate marketing efforts, the government itself), but also on the evangelical social left— where there is some restraint as to the endorsement of specific personal sins (homosexuality, for instance), but who nevertheless have adopted secularist social frameworks and tensions (victims and oppressors in a class struggle based on various imposed criteria).